HIV/AIDS Info

What is HIV?

What is HIV ?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the causing agent of AIDS. This virus enters the human body through infection from another human and may remain in the body for years (ten years or more) without any symptoms; however that person can still transmit infection to other people.

What is AIDS ?

The word “AIDS” is an abbreviation of the English words that stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). It entails a group of symptoms and signs that occur at the late stage of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection. AIDS compromises the human immune system severely to the extent that an HIV +ve person becomes vulnerable to diseases that the healthy body can easily overcome.

How does HIV cause AIDS ?

In the first phase of exposure to HIV infection, the virus multiplies inside the body and affects certain immune system cells that help the body – in normal circumstances – to resist diseases. This period may extend from a few months to several years, during which a person living with HIV (HIV +ve person) may not experience symptoms. Without these cells, the body cannot defend itself against various diseases, and so opportunistic infections may result

How Do I Get HIV?

How does HIV infection occur ?

Virus may be transmitted from an infected person to another one only through:

  1. Unprotected (without a condom) sexual intercourse with someone who may be infected with the virus.
  2. Contaminated blood or sharing of injecting equipments.
  3. From a mother infected with HIV to her baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.

What are the body fluids that may cause HIV infection ?

The body fluids which may cause HIV infection HIV: blood and its products, sexual fluids (seminal and vaginal fluid), breast milk and amniotic fluid (surrounding the fetus inside the uterus).

Can HIV be transmitted through shaking hands or other casual means ?

No. HIV is not transmitted through casual day-day actions. HIV is not transmitted by touching, or kissing or hugging a person or through sharing bathroom, eating, or drinking or working with a person living with HIV. HIV is not air born.

Preventing HIV

How can we prevent HIV transmission through sex?

  1. Abstaining from sex :
    is the only way to guarantee that no infection will occur. However, the only effective way for HIV prevention through sexual intercourse is to
  2. Use a condom properly and consistently from start to end. In case of not using a condom,  you need to be sure that you have
  3. Only one partner who is faithful and knows his/her HIV status. Knowing someone well does not mean that you are protected from infections.

Is there a difference between the vulnerability of men and women regarding HIV infection ?

Women are more vulnerable to HIV infection biologically and for social reasons. Worldwide, close to half of people living with HIV are females. Biologically: women are more vulnerable to infection, because the area of the vagina that could be exposed to infected sexual fluids is large; and women are more vulnerable to other sexually transmitted diseases which increase the chance of transmission of the virus. Socially: women’s social status and economic dependence on men, and the high level of female illiteracy in Egypt, and the limited right to access to information on reproductive health are all factors that prevent women from discussing sexual matters with her husband, and therefore she cannot ask him to use condoms. In addition, in rural community especially girls marry at an early age, making them more vulnerable.

Is there a cure for AIDS or a Vaccine ?

Scientists have not discovered a cure yet. But a group of anti-viral drugs are used to the patient’s condition.  These drugs (ARVs) are provided by the Ministry of Health in Egypt free of charge to patients. It is also necessary to treat opportunistic infections as they arise. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine to prevent HIV infection.

Living with HIV

Who is the Person Living with HIV (PLHIV) ?

A person living with HIV is a person who has been infected with HIV. This person may not necessarily have AIDS. The medical expression of AIDS should be only used to the person who proved clinically that the immune system collapsed to a certain point.

How can I tell if a person is HIV+ ?

You cannot tell if someone is infected with HIV from their appearance. HIV testing is the only way to confirm infection and monitor the person’s medical condition.

Why don’t we just test everyone to discover the infected ones ?

Because the test only indicates the HIV status at the time of sampling. It does not guarantee that a person will not be infected at any other time. Testing must be accompanied by counseling. In addition there is a stage between the time the virus enter the body and the positive test results. Conducting the test at an early stage before the body produces the antibodies to the virus may show a false negative result.

Moreover, the testing must be voluntary in order to prevent further stigmatization and discrimination against those who have been exposed to infection, and to encourage the groups most vulnerable to infection to progress to receive services without fear or coercion.

Do I have to provide any personal information to get tested for HIV ?

No, because HIV testing is a strictly confidential and voluntary process. For this reason, VCT centers will not ask for any identification or personal information.

Where can I get more information ?

Call the toll-free hotline number 08007008000 for more information on HIV

Should I report if I know someone is living with HIV ?

Should you report a person with diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer? HIV is not a crime. It is a diseases and should be treated like any other.

Is it possible for a woman living with HIV to get pregnant ?

It is possible if certain precautions are taken. A woman how wished to get pregnant should  follow a medically supervised course of treatment during pregnancy, perform caesarian-section delivery, and follow a course of treatment to the new born, while avoiding breast feeding to reduce the risk of transmission to 0%.

Can the person living with HIV get married ?

Yes, the person living with HIV can lead a normal marital life provided that the couples have sufficient awareness and are using proper protection.

Is it possible to integrate a person living with HIV in the community ?

Absolutely, PLHIV can live and work in the community without any danger to those around him/her.

Human Rights and HIV

What are Human Rights ?

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that are essential for a person to live a normal and healthy life and are essential for world peace and justice. Some basic rights include the right to life, freedom of movement and travel, personal safety, work, education, access to healthcare, and justice, among others.

What is discrimination ?

Discrimination is the act of treating a person in a way different from others that restricts his/her individual rights on the basis of nationality, skin color, religion, wealth, language, social status or other defining characteristic. It can also be on the basis of a person’s health status, including their HIV+ status.

Does a Person Living with HIV have a right to privacy ?

Every human has the right of protection from invasion of privacy, including their right to keep their health status unrevealed.  For this reason HIV testing is done on a voluntary basis and results are kept strictly confidential.

Is it necessary to restrict the rights of People Living with HIV for the safety of the public ?

It’s not necessary to restrict the rights of PLHIV as HIV is not contagious or transmitted in any way that presents a threat to the public.

What is the relationship between human rights and prevention of HIV ?

Many people avoid interaction with People Living with HIV due to the stigma and discrimination towards them, which in turn restricts the rights exercised by PLHIV. The discrimination doesn’t only affect People Living with HIV, it makes people unwilling to be tested for HIV, use prevention services, obtain knowledge, or change risky behaviors which increase the risk of more infections.

What is the link between the right to health, HIV and AIDS ?

Every individual has the right to access affordable quality health services, including voluntary counseling and testing for HIV and reproductive health services. PLHIV have the right to these services as well as the needed treatment services for HIV.

Do People Living with HIV have the right to freedom of movement ?

Every individual has the right to move and migrate freely, including PLHIV.  Therefore confining PLHIV or placing restrictions on their travel or residency into / from a country is an infringement upon this right.

What is the right to information about HIV and AIDS ?

Every individual has the right to access correct information about HIV and the modes of transmission and prevention and risk-reduction methods as this helps them to protect themselves. In addition, it is every person’s right to access information about sexual and reproductive health.

Does a Person Living with HIV have the right to work ?

Yes. HIV is not contagious or easily spread and thus PLHIV have the right to obtain work.  In addition, employers do not have the right to dismiss a person Living with HIV on the basis of their HIV status and they also do not have the right to request a person to be tested for HIV as a prerequisite for work.

What is the right to personal safety ?

Every person has the right to safety from cruel treatment, physical violence or random arrest.  Often due to people’s fear of HIV and AIDS or lack of knowledge on the modes of transmission, people living with HIV and high-risk populations are subjected to this violation of their safety which leads to their further marginalization within society.

HIV in Egypt

What are some misconceptions about AIDS in Egypt ?

Some believe that the main cause of transmission in Egypt is contaminated blood, but that is not true. People living with HIV through sexual relations is the main reason for the infection. Likewise there is no risk in donating blood as the needles used in blood donations are always new and used once. Unprotected sex in the context of marriage is not risk-free if one partner is infected.

Who defines human rights and who is responsible for them ?

Human rights are defined through international conventions and declarations that are signed and ratified by all member states of the United Nations.  In addition these rights are also defined in most country constitutions, including that of Egypt. Countries are responsible for upholding these rights for their citizens and residents alike.  Individuals are also responsible for fighting for their rights and for respecting the rights of others.

HIV Epidemic Overview and Trends in Egypt in 2012

Egypt has low HIV prevalence among the general population (below 0.1%) and a concentrated epidemic (above 5%) among some populations. Until the end of 2011, 2,471 Egyptians are known to be living with HIV; among whom, 388 (15.7 %) developed AIDS. Over the past ten years, the number of detected cases has seen exponential increase as shown in the trend graph below. This could be attributed to both the increase in testing for HIV and a potential increase in HIV infections. During 2011 only, a total of 468 new HIV cases were detected.

Cumulatively and till 2010, most transmissions occurred sexually (66.8%) with (46.2%) heterosexual and (20.6%) homosexual transmissions, while Transmission through injecting drug use represents (28.3%) of all cases. Among detected cases in 2010, (4.9%) were children of various ages denoting increase in mother to child transmission. Transmission through blood/blood products including renal dialysis was not determined lately but has been a serious problem in the recent past. [1]

There is a special vulnerability for women and girls due to lower socioeconomic status as well as weak access to prevention and services. UNAIDS/WHO estimates that there are 1,500 (1000-2900) women of 15 years and over living with HIV till 2011 (UNAIDS, 2012). Very few women present for voluntary counseling and testing (less than 20% of VCT attendees)[2]. Coverage of services for preventing mother to child transmission remains limited in Egypt.

Risk determinants for a wider epidemic exist due to a large population of young people with very low knowledge of HIV (4.8% and 18.3% of females and males respectively have comprehensive knowledge of HIV)[3]; poverty (21.6% of population under poverty line which reaches 66% in Upper Egypt ), the continued presence of illiteracy in the general population (38%) especially among women, high rates of unemployment of 9.4%, and up to 40 % among women below 30 years[4]; and high rates of risk behaviors and very low condom use.

National Response to HIV in Egypt

Egypt has strengthened anonymous voluntary counseling and testing facilities, availed free antiretroviral medication for people living with HIV, and initiated various peer-education programs for vulnerable populations including women and youth. Civil Society Organizations are supported to implement peer-education programs on HIV for vulnerable and most-at-risk populations groups (street children, refugees, prisoners, etc). The National AIDS Program recently developed an updated situation and response analysis for HIV; and a strategic framework for the next five years (2012-16).

World AIDS Campaign

Since 2004, around World AIDS Day on December 1st, UNAIDS Secretariat has been coordinating the organization of an annual nation-wide campaign addressing HIV and AIDS in Egypt. The annual campaign is organized through the contributions of several UN agencies, private sector, youth groups and civil society organizations and in partnership with the National AIDS Program.

Each year the campaign is launched with a set of contextualized objectives and a theme. Tackling stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV and AIDS in Egypt is among the campaign objectives. The campaign targets the public with focus on youth through events (e.g. cycling, marathon, concerts, and festivals). A media advocacy component is usually incorporated through recording and airing of Radio and TV spots and written media coverage.

A core component of every year’s campaign is a University events led by youth organizations (E.g. International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations – Egypt , Egyptian Pharmaceutical Students Federation). In such events youth activists hold advocacy and awareness outlets for their peers using youth friendly Information, Education and Communication materials supported by UNAIDS.

AIDS & Arts:

2008- 2011 – UNAIDS Egypt organized annual competitions for artistic expression related to HIV. The contests focused on photography and painting with images that would reflect a deep understanding of the HIV problem in Egypt and would aim to tackle AIDS-related stigma.  Annual events honored participants with certificates of appreciation and winning awards. The submissions contributed greatly to UNAIDS work and were often used in publications. The art work is usually displayed in public events, and often featured on various UNAIDS supported websites and social media outlets.

Media Advocacy

UNAIDS Egypt has appointed Actress Menna Shalaby as UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador in Egypt on December 1st 2010. Also UNAIDS Egypt was supported by Actor Amr Waked since 2004, long before he was appointed UNAIDS Regional Goodwill Ambassador in July 2010.

UNAIDS is privileged of the support and collaboration of it longtime friend and advocate Khaled Abol Naga, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and Hend Sabry, World Food Program Regional Goodwill Ambassador and leading actress of the movie Asmaa- initiated and cosponsored by UNAIDS Egypt.

UNAIDS also collaborates with Amr Salama, Director Movie Asmaa and other documentaries for UNAIDS;  Maged El Kedwany, Bushra, Tarek Allam, Basma, Nelly Karim, Shahira Amin and Hwaida Abu Haif on various programs

Photo Exhibition: “Positive Faces in Egypt “

May 2011 – UNAIDS in collaboration with Sawy Cultural Wheel organized a photo exhibition with the theme “Positive Faces of Egypt”. The ten-days photo exhibition was organized to display fifty photographs that show case positive faces from the Egyptian revolution and photographs highlighting positive faces rejecting HIV related stigma in Egypt. The Photography Exhibition was accompanied by a discussion forum with panelists Ms. Menna Shalabi, UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador, Mr. Monir El Shazly, Expert Photographer, Dr. Mohamed Salah, of the International Federation of Medical Students Association; and Dr. Wessam El Beih, UNAIDS Country Coordinator in Egypt.

AIDS Tunnel

June 2008 – The Tunnel is a creative method aiming at educating the participants on various HIV related issues through simulation of experience. The tunnel was composed of several stations where participants experience HIV testing , engage in discussions of misinformation and meet with people who could be living with HIV. Participants were dressed in standard t shirts branded ( HIV+?) to emphasis that one can’t tell by external appearance whether they are HIV positive. On the last station participants were invited to look into a mirror hidden by a curtain to see what a person living with HIV looks like. The tunnel has been developed in collaboration with HIV celebrity activist Khaled Abol Naga and with participation of celebrities Mohamed Mounir and Hind Sabry.

Youth Initiatives:

Since 2005, UNAIDS Egypt has been partnering with youth groups and youth lead organizations such as International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA-Egypt), Y-PEER , Dance 4 life , Rotaract and Pharmaceutical students association to disseminate awareness to their peers. UNAIDS often engaged youth groups in World AIDS Campaign activities organizing.

 

UNAIDS supports youth groups effort to disseminate awareness on HIV and AIDS and tackle stigma and discrimination among their peers through a youth friendly message and approach. UNAIDS conducted trainings for youth group leaders to sensitize them to HIV issues in Egypt and standardize messages.

December 2009: UNAIDS recruited volunteers as interns from different disciplines to engage in organizing the world AIDS campaign and included a capacity development component for this internship programme to promote their understanding of the HIV issues and advocate for the cause among their peers.

December 2010: UNAIDS worked closely with volunteers from youth lead organizations in public and private universities in Egypt (e.g.:  Cairo University, Alexandria University, Ahram Canadian University, American University, Misr International University) to launch a nationwide awareness campaign supported by UNAIDS. Capacity development sessions have been conducted for universities representatives to enable them to conduct awareness sessions for their peers.

November 2011: UNAIDS participated with the UN family in Egypt in a youth engagement event. The event was hosted by Sawy Cultural wheel. The one day event presented youth targeted activities, ideas and edutainment activities to highlight the messages. A strong emphasis was made on illustrating UNAIDS CrowdoutAIDS initiative for youth participation in setting a global youth policy and inviting Egyptian young people to participate.

March 2012: UNAIDS participated in UN Volunteerism day held at Cairo Citadel. The event was aimed to promote the spirit of volunteerism to Egyptian youth and shed the light on the essential role youth can play in development through volunteering. UNAIDS organized a booth for youth outreach and disseminated information on HIV and AIDS situation in Egypt. Youth were invited to actively participate in UNAIDS social media outlets and spread awareness on upcoming youth targeted events.